Colonel John Washington

John Washington (1627-1677), the Immigrant, came to the Colonies early in 1657, when he was about 25 years old.  He was the son of Rev. Lawrence Washington, M.A. Brasenose College, Oxford (who was the son of Lawrence Washington of Sulgrave, Northants).  His father, the Oxford scholar, was rector of Purleigh Church, Essex, England.  For a decade he provided a comfortable, scholarly ambience for his wife and three children, John, Lawrence, and Martha, until he was ejected in 1643 by Cromwell Puritans.  It was at this time that John became familiar with suffering and poverty.

The family estate, Sulgrave Manor, in the Cotswolds, had been built in 1539 by John’s great-great-grandfather Lawrence Washington of Gray’s Inn, Mayor of Northampton and successful wool merchant.  The site of the impressive stone cottage had been part of a monastic estate which King Henry VIII confiscated when he parted ways with the Pope.

Four years after the death of his mother, John Washington left for America as mate and part owner of a ketch, the Sea Horse.  The ship carrying John, who was to become the great-grandfather of George Washington, ran aground on a shoal in the Rappahannock, was wrecked and sank with a cargo of tobacco.  With determination John helped raise the ketch.  At the same time he met influential friends among whom was the well-fixed Nathaniel Pope of Maryland whose daughter Anne soon became Mrs. John Washington.  Her father had given her 700 acres of land when she married and had lent John 80 Pounds with which to buy more.  A few months later Anne’s father died.  This cancelled John’s debt and he was able with Nicholas Spencer, to set about importing 100 laborers, convicts or others, for which he could claim “headrights” amounting to a moiety of 5,000 acres known as Hunting Creek Plantation, which later became Mount Vernon.

He first settled in Westmoreland County at Bridges Creek.  This became a family plantation and later, in the day of his great-grandson George Washington, became known as Wakefield and Pope’s Creek Plantation where George Washington was born.  John Washington was ambitious and gained profitable offices and court appointments.  By 1666, a short none years after his arrival in the New World, when the control of the House of Burgesses gave way to the expanded power of the true Tidewater Group, Colonel John Washington’s name appeared as the representative from Westmoreland.

By almost 1675 he had become Lt. Colonel or perhaps full Colonel of the country militia.  These county units were the only protection the settlers had against Indian attacks.  To become a colonel in one of them was fully as important as becoming a vestryman or a burgess in the rise to power.  Colonel Washington ran into trouble with the Doegs and Susquehannas.  In the Bacon rebellion he put in the loudest claim for having had his holdings looted and occupied because he was wealthy.

After his marriage in 1658, in 1659 his good wife, Anne, had dutifully begun to bear him five children (of whom Lawrence, John, Elizabeth and Anne survived) before her life was cut short.  John, concerned, and of course grieving, promptly looked about and found a twice-widowed neighbor, Anne Gerrard Brodhurst-Brett, and married her.  After her death he married her sister, Frances, widow of Capt. John Appleton.

He died in his fifties in 1677 and was buried at his own direction on the family plantation at the side of his wife, Anne Pope, and their two children who had died. He was of the eighth generation in the saga which included George Washington as the eleventh generation.


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